Here we go. An anime series to actually get EXCITED about. House of Five Leaves felt like it was about something, not just a vehicle for entertainment. It’s the days of the samurai and a very timid ronin now finds himself employed by a gang who deals in some unsavory things. Against his misgivings, Masa is drawn deeper into the lives of these outlaws, where nothing is as it seems. Intriguing right? More important, it came out of nowhere for me. House of Five Leaves was snapped up for U.S. distribution by Funimation before it even began airing in Japan, as part of their deal to acquire selected titles in Fuji TV’s Noitamina programming.
There is still little action (even the kidnapping occurs while Yutaro and Masanosuke are asleep) but in general fans of this anime will continue to not care as they wait to see how these characters will grow and progress. Each episode trudges along with patience and steadiness. Watching Five Leaves for action would be a mistake, and you would think with such anime as Samurai 7 and Basilisk that anything involving fuedal Japan would warrant constant swordplay. This anime is about survival, not egos. Honest work is difficult to find. Extortion is common.
When things of value are show, such as gold or particularly fine clothes, you realize that they are valuable because they stand out so well against everything else. From home to city street, social relations are undependable. This is simply the story of a Ronin, or masterless samurai, named Akitsu Masanosuke simply trying to survive in a small rural Japanese town. The way the show plays out, you so clearly want to feel sorry for Masa and sympathize with his plight, and if you fall for it, then this show will suck you in successfully. But the reality is that Five Leaves lacks the sting to deliver an edgy drama or action packed series.
So, to generally wrap up the tone of this anime, the plus side is that House of Five Leaves will either turn you off or interest you the second you turn it on. It’s style is slightly different and awkward in a way that works with the theme. The animation is beautiful and the soundtrack is melodic. So if you have some time on your hands and are interested in something off the beaten path, head on over to Funimation’s site and check out House of Five Leaves. The Hulu channel is alive and well, and it is a joy to be able to not only recommend this series, but also report that you may watch it for free. And it certainly has people divided quite sharply, some calling it refreshingly different, others getting hung up on calling it flat-out ugly. I’ll let you decide.